The foxglove is versatile. It can be tall enough for the back of the border or left to go to seed at the edge of a woodland garden. It’s a perfect plant for naturalizing.
Foxgloves have always been popular for a town or country garden. The sight of foxgloves en mass evoke pleasant childhood memories for many of us. They still grow wild in some places – always striking against the dark foliage of a woodland clearing. They are attractive plants when grown with some care.
Where to Plant Foxgloves
Expect to treat most foxgloves as biennials. And as biennials, they do a lovely job of self-seeding, so the gardener will have years of flowering. It’s wise to buy a few seeds every year to toss into the mix. Foxgloves are natural to a woodland dale, so consider this environment when planting.
Starting a Foxglove Bed
Spring and fall are the best times to plant these tall plants. The soil doesn’t require a great deal of fuss, but a mulch will keep it from drying out on those very hot days. To propagate, scatter the very fine seeds over the surface of the soil in spring.
Simply rake them over lightly and add a thin covering of damp peat moss. For the best effect, consider devoting a space specifically to foxgloves.
The Foxglove Choices
There are approximately 30 genus in this species, but not all are suitable for the home garden. The best and most popular are listed below.
Digitalis grandiflora is a perennial species and will grow 2′ – 3′ tall. As the name implies, they are grand in stature and flower size. The florets will grow to 2” long. Flowers are yellow with brown tones. Grandiflora may be short-lived perennials. Pinching off the finished flower stalks will encourage side-shoots and more flowering stems.
Digitalis lutea is another perennial species and grows 1′ to 2′ tall. Again, the perennial foxgloves can be short-lived in some gardens. Lutea has yellow flowers not quite an inch long and flowers from May to July.
Digitalis purpurea is the common English foxglove and the genus familiar to most gardeners. This variety can grow to 4′ or 7′. Purpurea is a biennial, but can be a perennial in some gardens. The best varieties are “Excelsior” and the “Shirley Hybrids.”
Foxgloves are known as “Bloody Fingers,” so named for the shape of the florets running the length of their long stems. The Latin name for foxglove is digitalis, which is also the name of the heart medicine made from these plants. They are toxic.
Foxgloves can be grown in borders or can be naturalized under trees where dappled shade is a constant throughout the day. They are excellent as cut flowers, and can also been grown in pots which was a popular idea with Victorian gardeners.
Foxgloves grow from Zone 4.